Early last week, I knew Stan was running the Charlotte Ultra 50k over on the Mallard Creek greenway. Stan was going to be out there for something like 4 hours so I figured he wouldn't mind a little company. This also meant that I could knock out my long run on Saturday morning.
As the week went along Stan ended up not being able to run and then, Megan decided to run the 50k. She signed up just a couple of days beforehand. I mean "really"; Megan may be one of the few people in the planet that "signs up" for a 50k a few days beforehand. Yes, I understand signing up for a "5K" at the last moment but not signing up for a 50k. 50k is a long ways.
Anyway, after some FaceBook and email exchanges, I agreed to run along with her for 4 of the 5 laps. The Charlotte Ultra uses approximately a 10k course which is repeated 5 times.
I arrived at the race site. The temperature was easily in the lower 20s. They had the school open so runners could at least enjoy the comfort of the indoors before the race started.
I walked in the door and was immediately in awe. Finian Curran, the event's race director, had been busy setting up this race. There was a rather nice little festive atmosphere going on in the gym with music and venders.
Most of the announcements took place in the gym and with about 2 minutes to 8, we all headed down to the greenway for the start of the race.
David Lee, from David Lee Timing, gave us a few more last minute instructions and then, using a blow horn sent us on our way. With a combined 10k and 50k start, there were a number of runners disappearing into the distance. Megan and I settled into an easy pace. Jamaar joined for a while. We also talked to the other guys around us.
By 5 miles, Megan and I were separated into a little pocket. We were between the lead runners and the rest of the field. The really cool part was seeing all of the other runners again and again. There were also the changes on their faces. Many went from talking and smiling on the first loop to not talking and not smiling by the 3rd loop. There were many grimaces seen during the fourth and fifth loops.
To be honest, I have run with Megan quite a few times, but this may have been the first time we ever ran very far in silence. Just to break things up, I ask her what her favorite song was. Then, I ask her to sing a few bars of the song. The realization set in that she was getting tired so I started after asking questions or pretended to be making mistakes so she would have to correct me. This seemed to help since it took her mind off the fatigue and toward something "dumb" that I was saying.
Having never interacted with this type of loop course race before, I actually find it kind of nice. Regularly each lap, I would see Jamaar and Rob making their way along. Meredith, Justin, and Matthew from Running Works were progressing their way through 31 miles.
Yelling encouragement and seeing familiar faces ever so often was really fantastic. I didn't know a lot of the other runners, but this didn't stop me from giving them a smile along with a "good job" when they passed.
Surprisingly, 3 laps went by pretty quickly. My quads were a little tired but overall, I felt fine. I finished up the fourth lap and let Megan set out alone for the final lap. I did pretty much what I had promised. I had run 4 laps for 25.25 miles and keep the pace pretty much on 7:10 pace the entire time.
Then, I waited around for her to complete the last lap. I knew she wanted to run under 3:50. This would qualify her for the Worlds. We had finished four loops in just over 3 hours so she would have roughly 50 minutes to run the last 10k. She did it easily. She finished in 3:47:41.
Major "kudos" need to be given to Meredith, Justin, and Pat. Their efforts with Running Works are showing major divides. Yesterday, Matthew Hoffman who is one of the "neighbors" in the Running Works program completed the 50k course in 5 hours 46 minutes and 33 seconds. This is a major accomplish given his circumstances and that he had never raced beyond an 8k which he did the week before. In my opinion, clear signs that Running Works is making great "strides" to get people back on the feet.
Two other groups were awesome long the course. The medical staff must have walked the entire course and kept checking to see if we were okay. This was a really nice touch for the race. My real appreciate goes out to the workers of the aid stations. Their smiles and encouragement were never more than a mile and half apart. This was something I started looking forward to seeing with each lap.
Last "kudo" item on my list today goes out to Finian for putting on an excellent race. From this runner's perspective, he did a marvelous job.
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Sharing on thought at time,
The Cool Down Runner